Disability Employment Awareness Month Reminds Us to Make the Most of Ticket to Work

October 28, 2018 | Paula Morgan, Return to Work Case Manager at Allsup Employment Services

October marks the annual occurrence of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in the U.S., where organizations nationwide work to educate the public on the value and necessity of a workforce that includes people with disabilities, as well as the challenges faced by this group when trying to find a place in the modern workforce.

For people with disabilities, experiencing the personal rewards of returning to work is not only satisfying but can lend a sense of security for the future. After a sometimes grueling recovery from a severe condition or illness, becoming financially independent and secure again can help renew a sense of purpose and direction in life.

Unfortunately, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is nearly twice as high as those who are able-bodied (7.3 percent versus 3.4 percent). That’s in part due to the many misconceptions shared by employers and policymakers — and even individuals with disabilities themselves. Research shows the longer that formerly injured or ill individuals are out of the workforce, the harder it becomes for them to re-enter. It’s crucial to help this transition occur as quickly as possible, especially since it’s the financial disruption that can cause the largest problems down the line – not the initial costs for medical treatment.

Allsup Employment Services specialists know that people with disabilities want to go back to work. When we ask, more than half of the applicants we serve through our online Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) assistance platform indicate they do want to go back to work someday. We also know that very few do. The road back to employment can be a scary one―many are afraid of losing the benefits they currently need to survive. Other potential job seekers just don’t have a clear path available, or the resources they need, to make that happen.

This October, there is some good news. In today’s tightening labor market, employers are starting to show more openness to providing accommodations to workers who have experienced a severely disabling illness or injury. By receiving education at the start of their Social Security disability application process about the programs and assistance available, people with disabilities can better envision a path to put their lives and careers back on track.

For those who have a disability, the first thing to do is to find out if they qualify for SSDI, and then apply immediately. If they have already been awarded SSDI, they could benefit from Social Security’s Ticket to Work program. Ticket to Work can help them earn more money than they currently receive in SSDI benefits and can improve their financial future. If and when an individual is medically able to try some kind of work, this program makes it easier for the person to test whether he or she is ready to work, without the fear of losing SSDI and Medicare benefits.

To make the most of the program, it helps to understand these Ticket to Work basics:

  • Employment Networks (ENs). More than 600 ENs across the U.S. offer a range of free support
    services through the Ticket program. Some ENs serve specific populations, while others provide specialized support services. You can visit the SSA’s Ticket to Work page to search for an EN, or you can check out the TrueHelp site for more information on returning to work with SSDI.
  • Trial Work Period (TWP). Individuals can keep their SSDI cash benefits while testing their ability to work for nine months (anytime during a 60-month time period). They have a safety net where they can test their ability to work again and receive full SSDI benefits in addition to their job earnings.
  • Extended Period of Eligibility (EPE). After the Trial Work Period ends, individuals are eligible to receive SSDI benefits for any month in which their job earnings drop below a threshold called “substantial gainful activity” (SGA). In 2018, SGA is $1,180 for non-blind individuals and $1,970 for blind individuals. This period lasts 36 months.
  • Continuing Medicare Coverage. After the Trial Work Period ends, Medicare coverage continues for up to 93 consecutive months. Individuals still receive coverage during this time even if SSDI payments end.
  • Expedited Reinstatement of Benefits. If individuals become unable to work again within five years after the EPE ends, they can request to have their SSDI benefits restarted without filing a new Application.
  • Continuing Disability Review (CDR) Protection. Social Security periodically reviews disability claims. As part of the Ticket to Work program, individuals are exempt from medical CDRs and their status remains unchanged. For patients ready and medically able to return to work, taking advantage of the Ticket to Work program can help prepare them for success.

As you can see, there are years of protection and important supports to help individuals attempt a return to work. Returning to work can be tough and complicated, but the Ticket to Work program can streamline the process. Working again also can provide a better financial future in the years leading up to retirement. For many people with disabilities, using their Social Security disability benefits could be their best path back into the workforce.

Action Alert! Tell your Representative to vote NO on a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA)

April 10, 2018

The House is scheduled to vote on H.J. Res. 2, Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States, on Thursday, April 12.

This bill proposes a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the Constitution of the United States. While it does not directly cut Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, or other programs, it is all but certain to result in massive cuts.


What is a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA)?

A BBA would require that the federal government not spend more than it brings in in a given year. In other words, expenditures cannot exceed revenue in a fiscal year.

While this might sound reasonable on the surface, it is actually bad policy. BBA proponents say that the federal government, just like individuals, must have balanced budgets. But this is a false analogy because it would mean that individuals should not be able to borrow for things like home mortgages or student loans. The federal government also needs the flexibility to borrow sometimes to address critical priorities.


Why is a BBA Harmful?


It will result in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and other large programs.

These programs are a large part of the federal budget and many members of Congress are seeking ways to cut them. Social Security and Medicare are particularly vulnerable because a BBA prohibits spending from exceeding revenues collected in that year. These programs operate with trust funds that collect dedicated payroll taxes that are partially paid out in future years.


It would harm the economy.

A BBA would likely cause significant harm to the economy, making recessions both deeper and longer. In an economic slowdown, revenues (mostly taxes) fall while spending for unemployment and other benefits increases. A BBA would force policymakers to cut federal programs, raise taxes, or both when the economy is weak or already in recession, the exact opposite of what most economists advise.


Take Action

Use the widget below to send an email, tweet, and Facebook post directly to your Representative to tell them to oppose the Balanced Budget Amendment (H.J. Res. 2).

Call your Representative!

Dial the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or (202) 224-3091 (TTY) and ask to be connected to your Representative.

What to say:

  • I am a person/family member/other of a person with a disability.
  • Please vote NO on H.J Res 2.
  • A balanced budget amendment will likely result in severe cuts to programs for people with disabilities.
  • If Congress were truly concerned about deficits, it would not have enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December. This law will increase deficits by over $1 trillion over 10 years and mostly helps the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.
  • Congress must not try to balance the budget on the backs of people with disabilities.


Additional Information


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This action alert was developed with content provided by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

How to Get Disability Assistance for Chronic Lupus

February 7, 2018 | Andrew Mathis, Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates

Most people don’t understand what it’s like to have lupus. It’s a debilitating disease with complicated symptoms that can change and worsen over time.

If you — or someone close to you — experiences lupus effects severe enough to make working impossible, there is an avenue for financial relief: Social Security Disability benefits.

Social Security is famous for providing retirement benefits. But in the event that health problems force you out of work before you reach retirement age, Social Security also has disability programs that act as a form of insurance.

These programs provide monthly checks and qualify you for government-run medical insurance through Medicare or Medicaid.

Winning those benefits, however, is hard.

As a professional disability advocate, I see the challenges people face with lupus — and with being denied disability benefits — all the time.

But with a serious condition like lupus, a carefully built application can secure your benefits and help you maintain your financial independence.

In this post, I’ll explain how Social Security approaches lupus as a qualifying disability.


What is Chronic Lupus?

The Lupus Foundation of America defines lupus as a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of your body –– skin, joints, and organs –– affecting 5 million people worldwide, with more than 16,000 new cases reported each year.

“Chronic” means the signs and symptoms last longer than six weeks and often for years.

With the right medical care, the Lupus Foundation says, most people with lupus can lead a full life.

But severe cases of lupus can become a disability. Lupus can even be fatal.

Common symptoms, according to the Lupus Foundation, include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Painful or swollen joints
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Swelling
  • Pain in chest on deep breathing (pleurisy)
  • Sensitivity to sun or light
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal blood clotting


How Lupus Qualifies for Social Security Disability

Social Security maintains a list of official qualifying diseases, called its “Blue Book,” and lupus is included on the list.

For Social Security’s purposes, lupus qualifies as a disability when it meets these conditions:

  • It involves two or more organs or body systems.
  • It includes at least two major signs or symptoms, such as severe fatigue, fever, malaise, and involuntary weight loss.


If lupus symptoms occur repeatedly, the disease qualifies as a disability when it causes these limitations:

  • Limitation of daily living activities
  • Limitation of social functioning
  • Limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner because of problems with concentration, persistence, or pace


Social Security also has rules that apply to every kind of disability:

  • You must be unable to continue in past work.
  • You must be unable to adjust to other work.
  • Your condition must be expected to last at least a year.


Why is it Hard to Win Social Security Disability Benefits?

The Social Security Administration is grappling with years of cuts to the resources it needs to run its programs. It also faces political pressure to avoid granting benefits to anyone who doesn’t deserve them.

So applying for disability benefits is complicated and confusing, filled with long forms and thousands of rules, regulations, and procedures.

In recent years, Social Security and other observers — including me — have reported that most people get denied when they first apply. As many as two-thirds of initial applications for disability benefits get turned down.

When you’re denied, your next step is to appeal. A key step in appealing is going to a hearing with a Social Security administrative law judge. But, as many news reports have shown, Social Security has a backlog of more than 1 million people waiting for hearings. The wait can last more than a year.

A condition like lupus comes with particular challenges in convincing your claims examiner that your health problems are severe enough to warrant benefits.

Lupus has a wide variety of symptoms. Many of them— like fatigue — are difficult for someone else to observe. The symptoms change over time.

But if you have lupus and Social Security denies your application for benefits, you should appeal. Appeals are often when people succeed at winning benefits.

You can get help with your appeal from a professional Social Security Disability advocate. This is what we do at my firm in the Washington, D.C. area.

Most professional advocates will provide a free initial consultation on your case. And most only charge a fee when you win benefits.

Experienced advocates deals with the Social Security system every day. They know how to build your appeal to give you the best chance of winning benefits, including gathering all-important medical evidence.


What Medical Evidence Do You Need?

Social Security calls medical evidence the “cornerstone” for proving a disability application.

The most important evidence you can provide comes from medical professionals who treated you for your impairment.

Hold on to all of your medical records from treatment for lupus. You’ll need these records for your application or appeal. A professional advocate can also help you gather all the evidence you need.

Social Security looks for evidence of these main points:

  • Existence of impairment, including the “objective medical evidence” that you have an impairment
  • Severity of impairment, establishing how your impairment affects your ability to work
  • Non-medical sources, including statements from coworkers, family members, and others who know you


What Forms Do I Need?

Applying or appealing for Social Security Disability benefits means filling out a lot of forms.

Here are a few key ones:

  • The Disability Report,  Adult, FORM SSA-3368-BK
  • The Work History Report, FORM SSA-3359-BK
  • The Recent Medical Treatment Report, FORM HA-4631
  • The Medications Report, FORM HA-4632
  • The Hearing Request, FORM HA-4632


My firm’s website includes descriptions of these and other forms you might encounter in the process of applying for disability benefits.


Do I Have a Disability Case for Lupus?

If your lupus is keeping you from working, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

Don’t be afraid to apply — or appeal if you’re denied. And don’t hesitate to reach out and get help. Too much is at stake.

When health problems have changed everything, those monthly checks can help you move forward with your life.


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Andrew Mathis is an Accredited Disability Representative (A.D.R.) serving the Washington, D.C. area. He leads Mathis & Mathis Disability Advocates and has spent more than 25 years helping people secure the disability benefits they need.


Action Alert! We Must Continue the Fight to Protect Medicaid

January 25, 2018

The House and Senate Republicans and Democrats are meeting at the end of the month to determine their respective caucus’ legislative priorities for 2018.  The disability community must remind Congress that we support the Medicaid program and that they should not take steps to cut or cap the program.



Key House and Senate leaders have indicated that they would like to cut spending on federal programs such as Medicaid in response to the 1.5 trillion dollar loss of revenue due to the tax cuts. Some leaders have been careful to say that Medicare and Social Security are off the table for possible cuts but Medicaid, food assistance, Supplemental Security Income and others remain targets.  This is a continuation of the fight in 2017 except they are using different messaging.  Medicaid is at risk whether they are calling it “welfare reform” or “opportunities” or “jobs for people”, the end result is reducing enrollment in Medicaid and spending less on the program.

The only feasible way for Congress to enact major cuts or caps to Medicaid this year is through special budget rules (known as reconciliation) that allow the Senate to pass budget-related legislation with a simple majority. But reconciliation cannot proceed without first passing a budget resolution that includes instructions that would allow the Senate to use special budget rules.  We must remind Congress that we want to protect Medicaid and other programs. Insist that Congress refuse to include reconciliation instructions in any budget legislation and instead seek bipartisan efforts to strengthen Medicaid and other social programs people with disabilities rely on.


Take Action

Call your Representative and Senators today — 202-224-3121.  EVERY call matters.  If we can prevent Congress from passing a budget, then Congress will not be able to cut or cap Medicaid. Act now as Congress will be deciding what direction to take at the end of the month.

What to Say:

  • I am your constituent.
  • I am a person with a disability (or a family member, or professional in the field).
  • Medicaid provides critical services to people with disabilities.
  • Protect Medicaid from cuts and caps.
  • Do not pass a budget that allows Medicaid cuts.


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This action alert was developed by the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

National Call-In Day #3: Last Chance to Stop the #TaxOnDisability

UPDATE – December 19, 2017

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act this afternoon (around 1:30pm Eastern Time). After that vote is completed, the Senate will engage in 10 hours of debate on the bill before voting late tonight.

This is an accelerated schedule from what we initially expected. Please call your Senators and Representatives NOW to STOP the #TaxOnDisability!


December 17, 2017

As the saying goes, “the third time is the charm!” Please join us for one more National Call-In Day to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and stop the #TaxOnDisability. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the final bill, just released by the conference committees on Friday, in the next couple days. The Senate is expected to vote on Monday 12/18 or Tuesday 12/19, while the House of Representatives is expected to vote on Tuesday 12/19.


National Call-In Day: No Tax on Disability!

December 18, 2017

Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 (voice) or 202-224-3091 (TTY)

Join people with disabilities, our families, and advocates around the country this Monday, December 18, for another national call-in day to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is very close to reaching President Trump’s desk and becoming law. NOW is the time to call your Representative and tell them to OPPOSE this dangerous bill!




Key disability-related provisions of the final Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

  • Individual Mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed
    “Elimination of Shared Responsibility Payment for Individuals Failing to Maintain Minimal Essential Coverage. The conference agreement follows the Senate amendment.” (p 153)
  • Disabled Access Credit is kept
    “Repeal of credit for expenditures to provide access to disabled individuals. … The conference agreement does not follow the House bill provision.” (p 290)
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit is kept
    “Repeal of work opportunity tax credit. … The conference agreement does not follow the House bill provision.” (p 285)
  • Orphan Drug credit is reduced to 25%
    “Repeal of credit for clinical testing expenses for certain drugs for rare diseases or conditions. … The conference agreement follows the Senate amendment, but reduces the credit rate to 25 percent of qualified clinical testing expenses.” (p 282)
  • Expands the Medical Expense Deduction
    “Provides relief for Americans with expensive medical bills by expanding the medical expense deduction for 2017 and 2018 for medical expenses exceeding 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income, and rising to 10 percent beginning in 2019.” (Tax Cuts & Jobs Act Policy Highlights)

Despite changes to the final bill and some provisions that could benefit people with disabilities, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is, ultimately, detrimental to the well-being of people with disabilities. This legislation repeals the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate, which, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), will “increase the number of uninsured people by 4 million in 2019 and 13 million in 2027.”

Furthermore, while the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act does not include direct cuts to Medicaid or other disability services, these cuts are expected to follow to offset the roughly $1.5 trillion added to the deficit due to providing large tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Medicaid and other disability services were the target of intense cuts over the summer through the various Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bills proposed in the House and Senate. There is no doubt that these same services remain on the chopping block to help pay for the proposed tax cuts.



Additional Resources

Action Alert! National Call-In Day: No Tax on Disability! (Take Two)

December 10, 2017

The House and Senate each passed their own version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which means that now a conference committee must work out the differences between each bill to produce a final version. The private House and Senate Conferences will be meeting all week. A three hour meeting between the House and Senate Conferences is scheduled for December 13, 2017.

Senate Conferees:

  • Republicans: Hatch (UT), Enzi (WY), Murkowski (AK), Cornyn (TX), Thune (SD), Portman (OH), Scott (SC), and Toomey (PA)
  • Democrats: Wyden (OR), Sanders (VT), Murray (WA), Cantwell (WA), Stabenow (MI), Menendez (NJ), and Carper (DE)

House Conferees:

  • Republicans: Brady (TX-8), Roskam (IL-6th), Nunes (CA-22nd), Black (TN-6th)), Noem (SD-at large), Bishop (UT-1st), Young (IA-3rd), Upton (MI-6th), and Shimkus (IL-15th)
  • Democrats: Neal (MA-1st), Levin (MI-9th), Doggett (TX-35th), Grijalva (AZ-3rd), and Castor (FL-14th)


We’re hearing that a vote on the final tax bill is not going to happen this week. This delay provides us more time to protest this bill and shows that our efforts so far have been effective. Please join us for a national call-in day tomorrow (Monday, 12/11) to tell our Representatives to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act! We’re told that call volume on Capitol Hill has been high – keep it up!


National Call-In Day: No Tax on Disability!

December 11, 2017

Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 (voice) or 202-224-3091 (TTY)

Join people with disabilities, our families, and advocates around the country this Monday, December 11, for another national call-in day to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Note: We’re hearing that advocates calling Members of Congress that are not their own are being dismissed as outside agitators and are clogging up the phone lines – Please focus on calling your own Members of Congress and encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to do the same.


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is very close to reaching President Trump’s desk and becoming law. NOW is the time to call your Representative and tell them to OPPOSE this dangerous bill!



The Senate tax bill is extremely dangerous to the well-being of people with disabilities.

  • Tax cuts open the door for cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, and other services that benefit people with disabilities. While neither the House nor Senate tax bill includes direct cuts to these services, cuts are expected to follow to offset the $1.5 trillion added to the deficit due to providing large tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Medicaid and other disability services were the target of intense cuts over the summer through the various Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bills proposed in the House and Senate. There is no doubt that these same services remain on the chopping block to help pay for the proposed tax cuts.
  • The Senate bill eliminates the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual mandate. The individual mandate helps make health insurance affordable. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 13 million people would lose access to affordable coverage by 2027 if the individual mandate were eliminated. Furthermore, insurance premiums would rise by 10%, which amounts to an increase of hundreds of dollars per year for nearly 7 million middle-income Americans and by over $1,000 per year for seniors, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
  • The Senate bill benefits the wealthiest Americans while the poorest would be worse off. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report which found that Americans earning less than $100,000 a year would, ultimately, not benefit from the proposed tax cuts. According to a Washington Post analysis of the CBO report, “By 2019, Americans earning less than $30,000 a year would be worse off under the Senate bill, CBO found. By 2021, Americans earning $40,000 or less would be net losers, and by 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 a year would be worse off. On the flip side, millionaires and those earning $100,000 to $500,000 would be big beneficiaries, according to the CBO’s calculations.”


The House bill is also damaging as it proposes to eliminate several tax deductions and credits that benefit people with disabilities. These include:

  • The Medical Expense Deduction: This tax deduction allows people to deduct large, unreimbursed medical and dental expenses that exceed 10% of their income. Approximately 8.8 million people utilize this deduction, 70% of which have an income at $70,000 or lower. Most filings are around $10,000 by people with high healthcare costs, which largely includes people with disabilities, chronic health conditions, and other medical conditions. People are allowed to deduct expenses for a variety of expenses including treatments, surgeries, medications, and medical travel.
  • The Disabled Access Credit and Barrier Removal Tax Deduction: Businesses that accommodate people with disabilities may qualify for tax credits and deductions including the Disabled Access Credit and the Barrier Removal Tax Deduction. This credit and deduction incentivizes small businesses to make their businesses accessible for disabled people. Small businesses can claim a 50% credit per year for expenditures between $250 and $10,250 that increase access and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • The Work Opportunity Tax Credit: This federal tax credit is available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups (including disabled people who receive services from Vocational Rehabilitation, SSI recipients, returning citizens, veterans, and long-term unemployment compensation recipients) who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment. The current tax credit for hiring a person with a disability can be as high as $2,400 for a business.


The final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could contain any of these harmful provisions from the Senate and House bills.

While neither tax bill includes direct cuts to Medicaid or other disability services, these cuts are expected to follow to offset the roughly $1.5 trillion added to the deficit due to providing large tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Medicaid and other disability services were the target of intense cuts over the summer through the various Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bills proposed in the House and Senate. There is no doubt that these same services remain on the chopping block to help pay for the proposed tax cuts.



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